3 Tips for Designing Your Summer Arts Experiences

BGCA’s Ashley Payton is back to share GREAT ideas for incorporating the arts into your summer programming. It’s that time of year, y’all!

Let’s start by taking a poll. How would you rate your Club’s arts offerings on a scale from 1-3?

  • 1 – We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got (Beginner)
  • 2 – We’re doing alright (Intermediate)
  • 3 – Can’t touch this (Advanced)

If you rated your offering between 1-2, we’ve got you covered.

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Summer is approaching quickly, and BGCA offers programmatic art resources spanning across four pillars of art: Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Digital Arts, and Applied Arts, plus strategic planning and training resources. 

BGCA’s Approach to Arts

Strategy is an essential element of program development. A programmatic arts strategy includes a comprehensive plan and methods in which you design your art experiences to achieve a specific goal. BGCA’s arts programs and learning experiences are grounded in evidence-based strategies proven to effectively drive engagement, retention, and skill-building among youth. These strategies include the Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development: 1) fostering positive adult-to-youth mentoring relationships, 2) cultivating a culture of high expectations and respect for creative expression, 3) Fun experiences, 4) inspiring and physically and emotionally safe spaces, 5) and recognition that guarantees a culmination of high-quality public events, experiences, and/or products. 

Now, let’s dive into some guiding tips to help you establish an effective strategy for your Summer Arts Experiences.  

Tip 1: Determine Your Approach

Arts learning can be approached in different ways. There are three ways in which BGCA categorizes approaches to Arts learning: 

  • Art Specific – Activities through which youth develop knowledge and technical skills in a particular art form. Also known as “arts for art’s sake.” Most art education programming is art specific and often builds a base set of knowledge and skills that youth can continue to build on. 
  • Arts Enhanced – These activities enable youth to use the arts as a tool or strategy to explore and learn about another subject areas, but there are no objectives in the arts. (Social justice, emotional wellness, etc.) 
  • Arts Integrated – These activities accomplish specific objectives when youth engage in the creative process by exploring connections between an art form and another subject area with the goal of better understanding both subjects. (S.T.E.A.M., Arts and Social Justice, Arts, Community Wellness, etc.) 

Determining your summer arts programming’s approach can be done by identifying your program’s learning objective. What knowledge and skills will youth learn and develop in your summer program? This decision can be made by incorporating youth voice and choice. Ask your youth what interests they have in the arts. Do youth want to learn and explore arts for fun (art specific approach)? Do youth want to use the arts as a device to explore and enhance their knowledge in other subjects or to heal and make a difference in the world (arts enhanced approach)? Do youth want to explore how arts can be used to create and innovate new technologies, experiences, and products (arts integrated approach)?

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Tip 2: Design Your Learning Experiences

We cannot learn everything all at once, right? BGCA has developed a scaffolding approach to creative youth development experiences that consist of three different learning levels. The first level of learning is exposure, the second level of art learning skill-building, and the third level is demonstration.

Consider planning and designing your activities and experiences using the three levels of creative youth development. For example, the first 1-4 weeks can be geared towards providing foundational experiences that promote exposure to and exploration of different art forms. The next four weeks can be aimed at building and enhancing specific technical art skills and social-emotional skill development. The last week can be dedicated to preparing for and facilitating the culminating art experience, such as a performance showcase, exhibit, or presentation. 

The Arts Experience Map directs you to activities and experiences across art forms and learning levels. This Map is your guide to the latest Arts content, linking directly to activities on Club Programs, MyFuture, and BGCA.net. Download it here or on BGCA.net

Tip 3: Build Professional Capacity

One of the top priorities in program development is building staff capacity. High-quality programs and effective engagement is accomplished through staff who are prepared and well-supported through professional development opportunities and resources. 

The Arts Learning Journey is a collection of professional development opportunities designed to support staff who are designing, facilitating, and leading arts experiences for youth in Clubs. From the myBGCA.net portal, select Spillett Leadership University. On the welcome Page, type “ARTS” in the search, then select Arts Learning Journey. Not registered on SLU? Go to myBGCA.net and select the SLU icon to get started, or follow the instructions on this Quick Reference Guide

BGCA will also be hosting two upcoming live virtual training sessions:

Arts and Social Justice, Friday April 28th 12- 2pm EST/ 9-11 AM PT. Register Here

Arts and Youth Leadership, Thursday, May 18th 12-2 pm EST/ 9-11 AM PT. Register Here.  

For more capacity building resources, visit the ARTS page on BGCA.net or book an art consultation for personalized support. Join our creative online community of teaching artists from Boys & Girls Clubs and other arts organizations and learn from your peers, share ideas, and showcase all art forms in our online gallery at BGCACreates.net.  

Happy Creative Summer!

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What are your favorite arts programming ideas? How do you integrate arts into summer programming? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org.

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